Justin Pollard - Book Review: The Interesting Bits – The History You Might Have Missed.

Bruce Turnbull 08/02/2008

Rating: 4/5

Have you ever wondered which English king exploded? Or whatever happened to Good King Wenceslas? Or perhaps upon uttering the phrase 'Gordon Bennett' you have been curious as to who you were actually referring to? Look no further, folks; Justin Pollard has all the answers, and more facts up his sleeve than an Oxford magician, to boot. Writer of “The Rise and Fall of Alexandria” and a regular contributor to “QI”, Pollard has resurrected a plethora of interesting and comedic anecdotes from the depths of English history with his latest venture, aptly titled “The Interesting Bits”, which pretty much does what it says on the cobwebbed leather binding. Those with even a passing interest in medieval history may well find a hilariously enjoyable read here, as it documents as much as makes fun of the subject with equalled passion and satire. Fact of the matter is, most historical figures were as dumb as popular figures today, and Pollard extracts their most foolish and imprudent endeavours in an easy to digest format, catered for fans of the field, but also for those uninitiated.

It is debateable how much truth there is to a number of stories in this tome - a problem you'll encounter with any chronicle of the time - but the uncertain veracity of these often incongruous tales merely heightens their comedic appeal. From the informative pub-quiz armoury of questions such as who was Uncle Sam, and how did Dracula get his name, to more ludicrous nuggets like why did Dick Whittington need a magical cat, and which Foreign Secretary killed himself with a letter opener, Pollard's farcical anthology is not exactly a thrilling read, but will have you viewing the past with a dubious eye, and watching the equally daft future unfold with two.